No doubt about it, if there was only one lake in the world and 2 fisherman, they would end up competing against one another… Its human nature. From the beginning of time fishermen impressed each other by the size of the fish they caught and by seeing who could catch the bigger fish. The old faded trophies we see hanging on the wall is all the evidence we need to prove that.
Times have changed and now in most cases when we catch a trophy fish, we have a lot of options for retaining that memory and avenues for “one upping” your fishing buds.. Digital cameras have certainly changed the face of fishing and how we share our memories. Sure many years ago you could snap a film picture with the idea of someday getting it developed, only to eventually forget about it, or to lose the photo, or the camera etc, etc.. Nowadays, that picture can be forever archived with the push of a button and on a personal note, other than feeding your family, I see no reason with the technology available today why a trophy fish should ever be sacrificed to put on a wall. I know some will disagree with that, but it’s just my opinion.
With that said, several years ago I recognized a want and a need for a catch and release digital only fishing competition in the Catfish community around here in MN. I realized the technology was there and the participants were eager, it was just a matter of setting up a good set of rules and making it work. So in 2007, with the help of a few friends and an established online fishing community called Fishing Minnesota, I created the King of the Cats Contest. This contest would use digital photography to help in sustaining these trophy catfish without the need of weighing or bringing it somewhere for verification and in turn risking the chance of injuring or killing the fish.
In the beginning, we tried a team type format and while we had fun, it had a few bugs, especially since the teams were randomly drawn. I thought about changing it to selecting your own team the following year, but decided the format of one on one would eventually be the way to go and the right way to run the contest. So in 2008, the fun really began. I was aware that there would be interest, but was very surprised to see all the participation that year. I was truly amazed to see how many big cats were caught that year and just the sheer numbers of fish overall as well. We had 150 fish entered during that first year and I was very pleased with that.
I will stress that this contest is FREE and I truly feel that is the biggest factor that has made is successful over the years. If there was money involved I probably would have dropped it many moons ago. My thought is that as soon as you introduce money and you introduce trouble. Enough said about that. So here is how the contest works. When you go fishing you bring along the control item (which is the logo supplied from the website). The control item can be printed in many different forms. Some people embroider them on hats, some people make shirts, towels, etc, but the most popular way is to just print it on a piece of paper. When you then catch a fish you need to measure the length and the girth of the fish to the nearest .5”. Then you take a picture with 3 things appearing in the picture; the person who caught it, of course the fish, and the control item. If the fish is big enough you will also be required to have a clear picture with it lying on a tape measure for verification. With that done, the best part happens; you get to let the fish swim away! When you get home that night, or if you have the capability right there in the boat on your mobile phone, you can enter the fish into the contest. It’s very simple and straightforward. You log into the website address and complete a few fields of information, attach picture, and hit send.
Scoring is based on length + girth of the 3 biggest fish you catch all year and at the end of the year, the top 5 scores are crowned with the title King of the Cats. So for example if you catch a 40×24 and a 38×22 and a 42×27, your final score would be 193. What we have found here in the upper Midwest states of MN and WI is that 200 pts is a very respectable score and a nice goal to set for yourself is to hit the 200 pt mark. We like to refer to it as the “200pt club”. Personally that has been my goal each year. Unfortunately 200pts won’t win the contest though and you will likely need to get between somewhere 210 and 225 points to be in the running for the title. This is for Flathead cats and we also do a division for Channel cats ran the same way.
It’s funny how this contest has changed the vocabulary of myself and my friends that compete in it. After we have filled out our 3 fish for the year, we are always trying to get that upgrade to bump up our score. It’s amazing how many times I now hear the word “upgrade” during the year. “I think it’s an upgrade”, “get any upgrades last night?”, “hey I think you might have an upgrade”, “heading out in hopes of an upgrade”. And in fact if you have ever seen any of my videos on YouTube you can probably pick out several occasions over the past few years when we are talking about upgrades.
With the growing popularity of the contest I was able to reach out to some folks in the industry to get some very nice things donated to not only reward those who participate but entice those who were on the fence. I tried to steer away from top prize type of giveaways and instead just a random drawing for participation, a good mix of competition and fun is my thought. We’ve had some really great stuff donated from great folk over the years. Renegade tackle, Brad Durick Outdoors, Monster Rod Holders, Plano, Frabil, Eagle Claw, Thermacell, Driftmaster, Fish grips to name a few. These great folks and companies has made the contest even that much better. The catfish world sure does have some great people and I can’t thank them enough for helping out.
If you have a few moments, check out the contest’s website at http://www.kingofthecats.org Lots of great pictures and stats from prior years. You can also check us out on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/King-of-the-cats-2013
Good luck to you in 2013 and if you are reading this and in the states we allow to compete, you might want to give it a try. Its a lot of fun!